The Spiritual Journey Needs Companionship
By Rev. Elizabeth Rechter, Executive Director
The word companion literally means "with bread." A companion is one with whom you break bread; the ones with whom you share the things that sustain life. The central worship of Christians is a table ritual, set by the Christ, in which we share the meal of agape love that sustains life. The Jewish weekly family worship of Shabbat is a breaking of bread and sharing of the cup of Spirit, reminding us to rest in God’s companionship. And spiritual direction is a place where we share our deepest life with a companion, and find ourselves fed and restored.
I have been thinking about one of my most treasured companions in this life. She is someone I have never met, but have come to know through her writing. Etty Hillesum was a Dutch Jew who was a victim of the Holocaust. She died at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland. Her journal was found and published as An Interrupted Life. Her words give a glimpse into a human soul living through some of the worst horrors in human experience.
In the midst of her short life, you see someone who never lets go of the thread. She is able to stay incredibly present to her life and to the lives of those around her. It is her presence that opens her to experience God in ever deepening ways. She is able to stand in love while the world around her was crumbling. She brings this presence to others to the very end.
I have been thinking of Etty because in Southern California the jasmine is in full bloom. Jasmine is a plant that thrives in many different climates. It grew outside Etty’s apartment in Amsterdam.
The jasmine behind my house has been completely ruined by the rains and storms of the last few days; its white blossoms are floating about in muddy black pools on the low garage roof. But somewhere inside me the jasmine continues to blossom undisturbed, just as profusely and delicately as ever it did. And it spreads its scent round the House in which You dwell, oh God. You can see, I look after You, I bring You not only my tears and my forebodings on this stormy, gray Sunday morning, I even bring You scented jasmine. And I shall bring You all the flowers I shall meet on my way, and truly there are many of those. I shall try to make You at home always.
In all the places I have lived since meeting Etty, I have nurtured a jasmine plant. And when I see jasmine blooming in gardens not my own, its fragrance brings me back to the power of being present, and not letting go of the thread.
James Finley calls this the deathless part of us. Thomas Merton referred to it as the "point vierge" of the spirit. It cannot be destroyed. I see it in Etty.
As spiritual directors and soul care workers, we know the importance of companionship, and we must stay committed to finding our own companions in the work of being present. Stillpoint is committed to offering opportunities to connect with companions, so we may stay buoyant in the stormy seas of our Journey. I hope you will consider joining us for our annual retreat, A Seasoned Call: Retreat for Spiritual Companions & Soul-care Workers. It will be a rich day of presence to care for your own Spirit, in the company of other spiritual directors and soul-care workers.
Blessings for the Journey,